Little Raine Band Confirms 6th Annual Day After Christmas Show December 10, 2018 21:21
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photo by Charity Ponter
Birmingham favorites Little Raine Band will continue their post-Christmas extravaganza this year, as the 6th Annual Day After Christmas Show has been confirmed. The band began this concept in 2012, and the tradition has quickly become one of the Alabama jam scene's favorites. Joining LRB this year will be Atlanta jamtronic act Space Kadet, as well as local producer Devonte Hutchins.
We've been on the LRB bandwagon since the inception of Live & Listen in 2014, as the band has played many events we have promoted, such as The Blueberry Jam, CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival, Jam in the Ham, and multiple shows at Zydeco, WorkPlay, and Bourbon Street Bar (Auburn). This show will be a special one, as the band has been hard at work in the studio for their next release in 2019. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by clicking here.
We recently caught up with Little Raine Band frontman Davis Little to learn a little more about what the band has been up to, as well as the concept behind this particular occasion:
"The Day After Christmas Show is a very special tradition for us. It always marks our last show for each year. There’s no better way to wrap up the year than getting down with the hometown crowd. This has also become a way for us to get together with friends and fans who are back in town for the holidays. It’s hands down one of our favorite shows to play each year, and it never disappoints.
This year’s show is going to be the best one yet (in our eyes). We’ve got Space Kadet from Atlanta joining us. We love these guys, and they put on an kick ass show. Also, our brother DeVonte Hutchins, who will be running lights all night, is going to open up the night with a solo set. There are plenty of sit-ins lined up. Needless to say, it’s shaping up to be a very special night for us, and we are really looking forward to getting down with everyone.
We're currently finishing our second album, which we are extremely excited to release next year. We’ve put in a lot of time into making this album and can’t wait to get this new material out there."
- Davis Little of Little Raine Band
Check out the videos below for a little taste of what you can expect from this year's lineup!
Watch footage from LRB's 2016 Day After Christmas Show here:
Watch Little Raine Band & Friends performing "Cortez The Killer" here:
Watch Space Kadet's recap video from Imagine Festival (2018) here:
A Conversation with Ghost Light: The Band We've All Been Waiting For December 03, 2018 17:22
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Donna Winchester
Since the inception of this website, artist interviews have been our bread and butter. If your goal is to be a valuable platform for the bands you love and believe in, you might as well try to find a way to tell their story. Over the years, I've had the opportunity to interview many of my musical heroes, such as JoJo Hermann, Col. Bruce Hampton, Marco Benevento, Luther Dickinson, and Neal Casal.
It's a rare opportunity to sit down, face-to-face, with an entire band before their show. In fact, this past Friday night at Atlanta's Terminal West was the first time that I've found myself in that position. Fortunately, the guys (and gals) from Ghost Light are some of the most humble, kind, and down-to-earth musicians I've met thus far.
Ghost Light took form towards the end of 2017, and they're off to one of the most impressive starts that the jam/festival has ever seen. The band is comprised of guitarist Tom Hamilton (Joe Russo's Almost Dead, American Babies), renowned pianist Holly Bowling, drummerScotty Zwang (Dopapod, RAQ), guitarist Raina Mullen (American Babies), and bassist Steve Lyons (Nicos Band). We discussed a number of topics, including the band's formation, songwriting, improvisation, their debut album, and much more. Read the interview in full, and check out photos from the Terminal West show via Donna Winchester, below.
I've been a big fan of each of you for several years now, whether it be American Babies, JRAD, Dopapod, or Brother's Past. Where do I even begin with everything you (Holly) have done? Tell me about how Ghost Light ultimately came together.
We were down in Mexico. I was doing this thing with Bobby (Weir) and (Billy) Kreutzmann, and I was just super stressed. I wasn't having fun. My manager was like, "Hey man, you're at this tropical resort playing with three guys from The Dead and you’re not having fucking fun. You've got to figure something out."
I guess you could say that was the "seed" that made it clear. There's gotta be a change. I saw on social media that Scotty (Zwang) was thinking about moving to Philadelphia, so I reached out to talk to him and check the pulse, if you will. I've known Steve (Lyons) forever. I knew he was in LA and didn't have a steady gig at the moment. I thought that if these guys were available and interested, that would be a pretty amazing group of four. Then I could bring that to Holly and say, "I've got a pretty amazing band here. I think we can do some really great stuff together." So we all talked about it and decided to give it a whirl.
That's the stuff that I feel is kind of the art of things you need to talk about. The things people need to hear or want to hear. When I'm writing, if I hear anything that sounds like it anywhere else, I throw it in the trash.
Some will have an idea and not want to drift away from it. I feel like we try to throw that completely out the window. It's a very similar approach with improvising. Going deep off and not rejecting ideas. Everyone is listening and being patient. That's a cool thing and we need to tap into that.
Like what Steve said earlier, if everyone is working with the same confines, then everyone is going to sound the same. What the fuck is the point of that? You don't want 17 records to come out one year and sound the same. That's not art. That's just consumerism.
We're trying to say something. We're trying to do something. We're trying to help people and push the art forward. We're all chasing the Beatles. They were true to art and what they wanted to do is create the best things that you could create. What that led to was a complete change in the world.
The Open Bottle's Tunesgiving Helps Feed Over 900 in Huntsville Area November 28, 2018 14:42
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Roger Patteson: Type 2 Photography
@type2photography on Instagram
When the concept of Live & Listen was coming to life in 2014, one of our pillars was finding a way to leave a positive impact on the community. What better way to do so than through the power of music? Imagine if everyone in attendance at any show you attend would just donate one dollar at the door. Taking advantage of these social gatherings and finding a way to help others remains one of our core beliefs today.
With that being said, last Wednesday presented our first opportunity to book and promote an event in Huntsville, Alabama. Our friends at The Open Bottle just recently opened, and their beautiful courtyard proved to be a fantastic option for live music. In the spirit of our annual Funksgiving Music & Food Festival on Black Friday in Montgomery, Wednesday was quickly dubbed as 'Tunesgiving'. The lineup ultimately fell in place with The Stolen Faces, The Pearl, and Them Boys.
While it was a little colder than we would have liked, we could not have asked for a better night of music. "Them Boys," which is a moniker for another well known Birmingham act, kicked things off with 90-minutes of foot stompin' folk tunes. If you haven't heard this band, please make it a priority. The Pearl would perform next, and they certainly got the crowd moving. This trio brings a unique energy that very few are capable of. Their unique, instrumental spin on Toto's "Rosanna" is always entertaining. The Stolen Faces were the final act of the evening, and this band continues to impress. Touring as a Grateful Dead tribute is no easy task, yet they manage to leave every Deadhead speechless with every performance.
It's called "Tunesgiving" for a reason, and the beneficiary for this event was local non-profit Manna House. Manna House is the food distribution center for the Huntsville Dream Center, a 501(c)3 public charity. Manna House provides food, clothing hygiene and baby items to individuals and families in need.
The Open Bottle to Host 'Tunesgiving' in Huntsville November 20, 2018 09:12
The Stolen Faces
"Them Boys" is a pseudonym for a Birmingham-based band that many of you already know and love. You'll have to come out on Wednesday night to see what this performance is all about!
Blackbelt Benefit Group Named a Finalist for Levitt Amp Grant November 16, 2018 15:07
Blackbelt Benefit Group (BBG) is now in the running to bring a 10 -12 week live music series to Selma during the end of Summer 2019 and Fall 2019 to be held at the Selma Riverside Park Amphitheater.
Sponsored by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, a national foundation dedicated to strengthening the social fabric of America through free live music, BBG hopes to qualify as one of 15 winning organizations competing in the Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant Awards.
The Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant Awards are an exciting matching grant opportunity created by the Levitt Foundation to serve small to mid-sized towns and cities with populations up to 400,000. Up to 15 nonprofits will receive $25,000 each in matching funds to produce their own Levitt AMP Music Series—an outdoor, free concert series featuring a diverse lineup of professional musicians.
BBG submitted the proposal for Selma. The proposed venue site is Selma Riverfront Amphitheater Selma’s proposal is now posted on the Levitt AMP website for public voting. http://levittamp.org
A successful campaign for BBG depends on community participation to get as many online votes as possible to bring the concert series to town. Community support, as measured by the number of online votes received, will be one of the key factors when the Levitt Foundation selects up to 15 winners.
Supporters are asked to visit https://grant.levittamp.org/voter-registration-page/ to register and vote. Online public voting is now open and ends November 20 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. The Top 25 finalists will be selected through online public voting. The Levitt Foundation will then review the proposals of these 25 finalists and will select up to 15 Levitt AMP winners, which will be announced on December 18, 2018.
"We're just excited about this opportunity to activate the Selma Riverfront Amphitheater with free, live music every Saturday next Fall. We hope everybody can spread the love to Downtown Gadsden, as well. If two Alabama cities could win this thing, it would be great for our state."
- Clay Carmichael, co-founder BBG
BBG asks supporters to start spreading the word to family, friends, colleagues and neighbors and rally the community to sign up and vote for Selma’s proposal.
Learn more at http://levittamp.org.
Good Times & Great Oldies With Jennifer Hartswick + Nick Cassarino November 09, 2018 09:50
Interview by Tiffany Clemons
Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
I’m new to writing for Live & Listen, and my interviewing style is a little different than most. I try to be serious, but always end up laughing hysterically and going off on some sort of tangent. However, I always preface this with my interviewee by telling them, “I want the readers to really get to know you and fully understand who and why you are who you are. Why you do what you do, and hopefully continue to follow you through your musical journey called life.”
I feel like this process went over fairly well with Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band and Jennifer Hartswick Band) and Nicholas Cassarino. (The Nth Power) when I sat down with them in the dark lit green room in the back of Birmingham dive, Zydeco. I had actually met them a couple of weeks prior at Hulaween, and while we had a few laughs and some brief conversation in the Spirit of Suwannee, we really dove deep into how magical this duo actually is right here in the Magic City as they kicked off the next leg of their tour.
So, now that you’ve been briefed, let’s start from the beginning. How did you get started with the trumpet?
Jen: I started playing trumpet when I was 10. I grew up in a big ol’ musical family. All classical musicians, and most of them were brass players. My mom was the only woodwind player, so naturally, when she had a girl she thought, “Okaaaay, you get a clarinet! You get a flute! You can play the piano! (Which I did).” Then when I was 9, my grandma came over and told me I had too much hot air to playing those instruments and brought me a tuba. Then my uncle, very shortly after, gave me a trumpet, and that was the one that stuck.
What about you (Nick)?
Nick: I started playing when I was… well, I started playing bass when I was 11 and probably started playing guitar when I was 12. Both of my parents played music and played guitar, so I kind of grew up with that around all of the time. So yeah, I guess I started when I was 12.
Nick: My old man taught me a bunch of stuff first, and then when I was 14, I linked up with a local guitar teacher. His name is Paul Asbell, and I studied with him through high school. He was really great.
Did either of you go to school for music?
Jen: For a minute. (laughs)
I feel like that’s common. I mean, John Mayer didn’t graduate either! (He was just the first person who came to my mind.)
How and when did y’all meet? And then, how did that evolve into this?
Jen: We met when [Nick] was 14…
Jen: I know, right? I was 20 and judging a high school “battle of the bands.” I think it was state wide or something. I don’t remember, but there were A LOT of bands. Somebody knew what they were doing when they made the schedule, because his band was last. So, I had to sit through a whole day of bands until his band, and of course, his obviously won. I literally was like, “who is this kid and how does he play like that at 14?” Ummmmm, so yeah… that’s how we met!
So, fast forward however many years…I mean, y’all obviously kept in touch, or…
Jen: Yeah, so I was on the road at that point, but he had to go to high school. (laughs). But yeah, we stayed in touch, and I kept tabs on him. I don’t know what it is from [Nick’s] perspective…
Nick: Yeah, we kind of re-connected after I graduated. I was 18 years old. I was living in Burlington, and Jen was around. She was touring a bunch with [Trey Anastasio Band], and then we just started doing some gigs here and there with Jennifer Hartswick’s full band.
Jen: It was like 11 people at one point. It was large.
I mean… I love when the stage is covered in musicians!
Jen: But we were like a bunch of idiot kids like, “We don’t care if we make any money, Let’s all shove ourselves into an SUV, with all the gear and all the butts, and sleep in one hotel room." But it was great. We had a great time.
Nick: Yeah, and in 2011, Jen brought me to my first festival, Bear Creek.
I WAS THERE!
Nick: That was a good year, right? We played the Music Hall, and that changed everything for me and seeing Suwannee.
OMG, I wonder if I saw you there because I definitely saw Jennifer…
Jen: Oh yeah, that was definitely him, because I don’t do gigs without him. Especially that era until now. Yeah, I don’t do anything without him.
I love that! That’s really cool…
Okay, so we’ve gotten some good background information going here. Is there anything that we should know about you that we can’t find on the internet?
Jen: I’m a reeeeeally good cook. You can’t find that on the internet.
Ah! So what is your “dish?”
Jen: I don’t have a dish. I will make you anything you want.
GOOD TO KNOW! *wink*
Jen: If I have friends who are travelling through town while touring, they always stop at my house and have breakfast. That’s the move. I like to feed my friends. We’re gone so much, and to be able to feed someone a home cooked meal that was made with love, is such an experience. To have or to make, either side of it, recipient or the maker. So yeah, that’s a fun fact about me!
Any secrets about you? [Nick]
Nick: Secrets? (Followed by a downward sarcastic whistle…)
Nick: You can tell everyone that we’re really fun, and we’re really nice.
Haha, okay. Got it!
Jen: (laughs) Because NOBODY knows that!
Can’t find that on the internet!
Jen: You would never expect that!
So, [Nick] you are from The Nth Power and [Jen] you are known from TAB (Trey Anastasio Band) and have your own band, with a ton of people. So, what is it like being “alone” ish… You know, you don’t have crew, and you are kind of doing everything self-serve. How is that?
Jen: It’s the greatest time of my life!
Jen: I absolutely love it. It’s so easy. It’s easy travelling with [Nick.] It’s easy playing music with [Nick,] and I mean, we call each other our musical soulmates. We don’t even have to speak. Just play, and we understand where each other is coming from. Plus, we’ve known each other for so long, that we just know each other so well. He’s my brother.
Sounds like it’s just works!
Jen: And travelling with 2 people is a dream.
Nick: It really is.
Jen: And it’s, ya know… affordable! And I feel like we can accomplish more with the two of us than we can with eight people.
So, that’s a perfect segway into my next question. So, what does Trey and your other respective band mates think of y’all and your growth together. Are they jealous of how awesome you are?
Nick: Well, as far as The Nth Power goes, they are all psyched about it, because The Nth Power was formed to back up Jennifer in the first place in New Orleans.
Wow! Okay, I did not know that.
Nick: Yeah...they’re happy about it, because it’s great, and we’re happy. It really showcases a different side of me personally, because I don’t play like this anywhere else. This is one of my musical strengths. So, it’s great. They’re happy that that’s getting seen.
It’s something special for sure.
Jen: Thanks, yeah, ummmm I don’t think you were being serious when you said “jealous…” (laughs).
Haha, ummm I TOTALLY WAS.
Jen: So, actually two weeks ago, Trey (Anastasio) came out to Rockwood and played with us and got to see the show. That’s the first time, and it’s really interesting, because we have been working together and hanging out for 20 years. Everything that we do together, Trey and me, we’d get it done, and then we’d sort of have our separate lives. He’s goes and plays with Phish, and I rarely go out and see that, maybe once a year.
He always wonders what I’m doing, and I’m playing in places that are too small for him to come to. So, the last time that we were in New York, he found out we were there and asked, “How come you didn’t tell me?” I said, “You’re too famous to come.” He insisted that he wasn’t, so the next time I came through I said, “Cool, we’re gonna play the smallest club in New York, and I’m going to invite you out to come!”
I think for one, he wanted to come, but also, he wanted to prove that he was serious. (laughs) So, after several days of planning, we got him in there, and he got to watch the show for the first time. He hasn’t stopped talking about it since. We’ve talked almost every single day about it, and he’s so thrilled and is like, “You know, what you guys have, people don’t find in a lifetime of searching. What you guys have is so special. I’ve seen so many bands who just absolutely hate each other and don’t want to be in the same space as each other and ya know… you guys… it’s human and then it’s musical.” So, yeah he loves it.
I will say, my first time seeing you two was just a couple of weekends ago at Hulaween, and I totally agree. You absolutely have something spectacular here.
So, you guys have been touring most of this year. What is next? Because I feel like y’all have got some “morning show” vibes here. Like, I want some “Jen and Nick in the Morning!” Good times, great oldies!
Jen: (laughs) As long as we can record it at night, that could possibly work. We’ll record it at 9:00 PM, and then it can air the next morning!
Nick: It’s just onward and upward basically! Just going to keep playing out. Keep travelling…
Jen: Yeah...the record just came out.
I was just about to ask about that! Nexus, right?
Nick: Yep, so we’re gonna ride that record for a little bit, work on some new music, and see what happens next.
So, we’re gonna continue this train? I love it!
Jen: I would be silly not to.
Tell me more about your latest record.
Jen: NEXUSSSSSS, is me and Nick and one of my absolute musical heroes, Christian McBride, on bass. We recorded it at The Barn, the infamous Phish barn in Vermont, which just has a vibe all on its own. It’s amazing.
Nick: HUGE VIBE.
Jen: We went in there for a week and put down some brand-new music. Music that we had never played out, so we were actually just discovering how we wanted to sound, which is a really fun process and now we get to tour it and figure it out and live inside it a little more and then it kind of takes on a life of its own, more so than on the record.
So, you know, as any touring musician does, especially when trying to build an audience they play covers, which is awesome. Y’all kill it. But now that y’all have your own originals and touring together, how does it make you feel to look into the audience and see their reaction to your original music and even be singing along?
Jen: It’s really deep. I mean, this is the first time that’s happened. I’ve been a musician for a long time. I’ve been writing music for a long time. I’ve had my own band for a long time. But this is something totally different and to look out and have people sing along to words that I wrote about a certain thing that happened in life. I’s really wild. It’s very humbling.
I was actually talking to Trey about that too, and we were sort of joking about streaming on Spotify and all these things. He pulled up and searched the record and he said, “You know, the top two songs on Spotify for you are both originals… for us, for TAB, that’s not the case. It’s a cover and an original.” And he said, “I hope that’s not lost on you.” So, I’m honored and humbled that the people get it. It’s music that Nick and I wrote together and it’s awesome and it’s awesome to see that people love it.
Following the interview, they played an hour and half-ish set to a half seated and half standing crowd filled with originals and covers, peppered with little anecdotes. You could see the glisten in everyone’s eyes as we all witnessed the pure love and passion that these two put into their music. I’m pretty sure every single person in the house stuck around afterwards to say hello to Jennifer and snag up a copy of Nexus, by the time I made it to the table, she was already having to break out more because all of the copies on the table sold. Below are their upcoming dates, I would highly suggest that you catch a show if you can and see this truly special duo for yourself.
Spacing Out at Hulaween: Out of This World Moments November 06, 2018 07:41
Photo by Keith Griner
Words by Tiffany Clemons
Additional Photos by Isom Morgan Photography
Spirit of Suwannee Music Park (SOSMP) is by far one of, if not the best festival venue in the country. Nestled on the shady banks of the historic Suwannee River in North Florida, SOSMP is home to over 800 acres of camping areas, concert ready fields and Spanish moss draped trees, making it the perfect setting for Suwannee Hulaween, The String Cheese Incident’s annual music and visual arts festival.
The String Cheese Incident (SCI), Silver Wrapper, and Purple Hat Productions made sure no detail was spared when it came to this year’s sold out fest. From the diverse lineup to the insane art installations at Spirit Lake. It was bigger, better and in my opinion, the best yet.
This year’s theme was “Creatures of the Galaxy,” and the 20,000+ attendees went full blast-off with their totems, costumes and out-of-this-world camps. In celebration of the feminine divine, SCI’s Saturday night Hula Incident set was dedicated to “Women of the Galaxy,” and featured female powerhouses.
While everyone embraced the galactic attitude there seemed to be a bigger ongoing theme throughout the festival and that was the power of the VOTE. Multiple artists used their platform to encourage festival goers to use the power of their voices and to be the change.
Here were some of the notable takeaways from this year’s event:
For a $20 donation, early birds were able to attend “Hula for a Cause,” a pre-pre-party that was held in the Music Hall on Wednesday night. All donations went to support Convoy of Hope and Volunteer Florida in efforts to help communities affected by Hurricane Michael and in return for your donation, you were given a night of music by Beartoe, Catfish Alliance, CBDB and the one-man band Zach Deputy. If you aren’t familiar, Zach is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter and can usually be seen surrounded by keyboards, pedals, drum pads, and sound boards which allows him to create an entire live band, looped with his own live playing. He describes his style as “island-infused drum n’ bass gospel ninja soul” and we’d recommend catching one of his sets near you!
Just Chameleons opened the Spirit Lake stage on Thursday for the pre-party and had everyone dancing to their original reggae, jazz, funk and soulful music. Not far from home, this Tallahassee based band closed out their set with a dedication to the late Mac Miller covering his song Dang! that features Anderson .Paak.
Over on the Patch Stage, Augusta-natives Funk You were laying down a powerful set of their own. This band always makes the most of their opportunities on the big stage, and Hulaween was no different. Highlights included a killer take on Prince's "1999," as well as guest appearances from The Brotherhorns and vocalist Amy Taylor.
Bubbles filled The Patch sky for Sound Tribe Sector 9’s first set of the weekend where they performed their album, Axe the Cables. Though this, as far as I know, was the only fan-planned bubble party, bubbles filled the air most of the weekend and it definitely made for an even more magical experience. Who doesn’t love bubbles? Also, seeing STS9 in the daylight is weird. They performed another set in the Patch later that night.
For the most part, the weather throughout the weekend was perfect. We had a little rain on Thursday night that started with a drizzle during The Floozies over in the Patch. This little element of wet, according to like, EVERYONE, completely elevated their set. It made the lasers a little more sparkly, the funk a little funkier and definitely made you a lot more smiley.
During Lettuce’s post-midnight pre-party set, the drizzle continued and a massive spider web broke out. Someone brought one of those faux stringy spider web thingies, typically used for a Halloween decoration to the Amphitheatre and while holding one end, began to pass it around. From one person to another it began to stretch and grow, and before you knew it, almost the entirety of the audience was under a canvas of spider web. Edit: I’ve learned that some people hate this… but I thought it was awesome!
LIZZO, LIZZO, LIZZO. Lizzo is an over the top-female empowering-twerking-rapper/
BUT DID YOU SEE THE WALKING TALKING TREE IN SPIRIT LAKE? He told me I could get up in his branches anytime…
One big notable point that needs to be made, are the green efforts. Large blue bags were passed out upon entry and throughout the fest for festival goers to recycle. You could fill your bag and bring it to the booth near the main Spirit Lake entrance and trade it in for a chance to play smashed-can “plinko” and sign up for a raffle prize.
Odesza returned to Hula for the first time since 2015 as the first headliner of the weekend and the sheer production value of their show is mind blowing. In 2015 they were on the Amphitheatre stage with a backing screen and a few lasers and lights. This year, their set was a full-on masterpiece. They featured on a raised platform where the front was a screen, and with the backing screen, 2 side screens and their iconic icosahedron shaped screen above the stage together it created a pano-effect for visuals. The Odesza Drumline marched out and lined the platform stage wearing “Jason” masks with their all white ensembles and signature hoodies. With visually stunning lasers and intricate lighting, choreography, confetti cannons, fireworks and thousands of fans singing every word, it was clear why they were brought back as a featured headliner.
Photo by Keith Griner
Were you stopped asked a weird question? It might have been because you were being polled for “Festy Feud” which took place over in the Silent Disco. With questions like “What is one thing you could change about festivals?” and answers like “Stank-ass portos” and “Tall ass totems,” a lot of laughs were had while contestants played the feud.
I was sitting in Spirit Lake watching the laser beams shoot over the lake and into the trees when a stranger came up to me and handed me a box with 3 buttons. I asked what it was and he said, “push one.” About a million outcomes ran through my mind in the split second before I pushed one and the second I did, fire bursted from one of the floating flowers on the lake. I released it and pushed another and fire shot up from a different one. I WAS CONTROLLING THE FIRE ON SPIRIT LAKE. If I may be so bold, I’ve never felt more powerful in my entire life than I did at that very moment… and for about 10 minutes after that. You truly never know what magical experience you’ll have in Spirit Lake, especially after dark.
One of best part about festivals is discovering new music, and discovery is exactly what happened when I stumbled into the Patch for KNOWER. They are typically an electro-jazz music duo Louis Cole (drums) and Genevieve Artadi (vocals), but have been touring with a band. I don’t know what it was about the drummer (I swear I don’t have a thing for drummers), but he was magnetic. Maybe it was because he was wearing a giant snow parka in direct 70+ degree sunlight that peaked my interest, or maybe because Genevieve and I have the same hair color, or that she was screaming lyrics like, “butts and tits and money… YES!” that made me stop, but I’m glad I did. Their music blurs the lines between electronic, jazz, funk and weird music. But weird as in different, nothing you’ve ever heard before and in the best way possible. Genevieve bounces around the stage engaging the audience and as a whole, this band is terribly exciting and progressive.
Lettuce took the Meadow stage early on Saturday afternoon and while they jammed their funky jams, people began to throw actual lettuce… during Lettuce. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this. Does this happen at all Lettuce shows? It. Was. Hilarious.
If you were looking for a little pick me up, all you had to do was stop by The Complimentary Bar in Spirit Lake, but NOT for a cocktail. The Complimentary Bar was setup to serve COMPLIMENTS! What a great idea. There should be more of these everywhere, like those little library book houses.
The 5th SCI set of the weekend was the Hula Incident featuring, “Women of the Galaxy,” and I’m just going to go ahead and say that it was the BEST theme set EVER. The set paid tribute to the young and the old, the late and the great, and the best of the best female singers of our time and featured Lisa Fischer, Jen Hartswick, Rhonda Thomasand Ann Wilson.
Below is the setlist:
Gimme Shelter (Rolling Stones) – Lisa Fischer on vocals
Rock Steady (Aretha Franklin) – Jen Hartswick on vocals and trumpet
Proud Mary (Tina Turner’s version) – Rhonda Thomas on vocals
Killing Me Softly (Robert Flack) – Lisa Fischer on vocals
Respect (Aretha Franklin) – Rhonda Thomas on vocals
Valerie (Amy Whinehouse) – Rhonda Thomas on vocals
Heartbreaker (Pat Benatar) – Jen Hartswick on vocals and trumpet
Politician (Cream) – Ann Wilson on vocals
Barracuda (Heart) – Ann Wilson on vocals
Get Up Stand Up (Bob Marley) – allllll the women of the galaxy!
Needless to say, it was a powerful and empowering set but when Ann Wilson herself, belted out Heart’s own Barracuda, the whole place went nuts. The ongoing “be the change” theme I mentioned previously was made even more clear when the ladies all came together for Bob Marley’s Get Up Stand Up. It was an incredibly commanding and inspiring moment that united not only all of the musicians and vocalists on stage, but everyone in the audience as well. The energy was unparalleled.
And speaking of parallels, a parallel universe is where the encore went with SCI’s “Space Jam.” They began with Rollover and took it to another planet, literally! From Star Wars to Star Trek and all your favorites in between, it is going to be really hard to top this year’s theme! Until then, you can watch the encore in it's entirety below.
A lot of folks missed the Incident’s encore because they ran to the Patch to catch the ever funky Vulfpeck. These guys are known for their funky rhythms, quirky lyrics and anecdotes between songs and together it all makes for a fun and groovy show. With multiple sit ins by Adam Deitch, (Lettuce and Break Science) the Shady Horns, (Lettuce) and Roosevelt Collier, their set was non-stop energy, especially after their featured vocalist Antwuan Stanley showed up. Vulfpeck knows how to interact and engage with their “Vulf-pack” and that was proven when the crowd was asked to participate in a little lyric change during Christmas in L.A. It just so happens that “Hula in Suwannee” fits as the perfect substitute with the melody. Each section of the audience was given a different harmony and when everyone sung together, it was harmonious. Check out their full set thanks for FunkCity.net below.
The elusive Jamiroquai would only step foot on US soil to perform five times in 2018, and thank goodness that Hula was one of those times because HE. WAS. AMAZING. Seriously though, if you weren’t already in another universe after SCI’s encore, Mr. Jay Kay took you there. With his robot hat that gave me serious Bowser vibes, he and his tight British jazz-funk band charged the Meadow stage a little late (see Vulfpeck), but played a little late to make up for it and everyone danced… the. entire. time. I can’t even really describe the experience because it was just that, an experience. If you were there, you get it, and I’ll just leave it at that.
What did you bet/win at Frick Frack Blackjack? I saw a guy win a hand with a pixi stick, some string cheese and a condom.
New Orleans vibes were in full effect on Sunday, complete with an authentic second line parade into Spirit Lake for Rebirth Brass Band. The parade was filled with dragons, dancers and some Do Whatcha Wanna. Once the line reached the Spirit Lake stage, the party didn’t stop. The second liners stuck around with their elaborate costumes and danced and sang with pure jubilee the entire set. This was a highlight of my weekend and definitely the perfect way to wake up my Sunday!
Photo via Keith Griner
Sunday at the Amphitheatre was an entire NOLA party on its own, with every artist having some sort of tie to the Big Easy. Kicking off the day were Hula celebs Jen Hartswick and Nick Cassarino. I call them Hula Celebs because during any given set, one of them would pop out and jam along with whoever was playing. It almost became a game! Jen Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band) and Nick Cassarino of The Nth Power, (which was formed where? New Orleans!) have been touring together almost all of 2018 and are an incredibly talented and wonderful duo. Their soulful vibes and unique sounds work together in perfect harmony. Since they were opening the day, Jen tried to figure out who in the crowd was just waking up, or who hadn’t been to sleep yet. It seemed to be about 50/50 from what we could tell. She also joked that she is a 5pm singer, so we were just going to have to deal with her 11am voice… could have fooled me because she blew me away. I saw her and her band five years back at a little fest called Bear Creek and while that was amazing, she is more of a leading lady than ever. Her voice paired with her subtle trumpet riffs were the perfect way to get Hula’s final day started. Nick you were good too… haha. But for real, dude is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to guitar and vocals. I’d go see this duo everyday if I could.
MAVIS STAPLES Y’ALL. Standing tall at 5 foot nothing and 79 years young, Mavis freaking Staples. Her deep raspy voice commanded the Amphitheatre and she was all smiles as she spoke to the audience during her set. She even said that she was going to run for president, but then immediately laughed and said to not take her seriously… however, I’d totally vote for her! She’s compassionate, has a lot of stories to tell and inspiring. I’m sure you are wondering how she ties to New Orleans…. WELL, not only is she a Jazz Fest alum, she filmed her last video, If All I Was Was Black, in NOLA and while it controversial, (what isn’t these days?) was also a powerful political statement video showing the replacing of statues throughout the city. Check out the official music video below.
Straight outta NOLA, the funktastic, Galactic, took the moss-covered stage next and was anyone else hoping for a David Shaw cameo for Hey Na or Dolla Diva? Because I was… at that same Bear Creek when I saw the Jennifer Hartswick Band, I also got to see David, Maggie Koerner and Galactic debut Dolla Diva on that same stage. Oh well…
And speaking of David Shaw, The Revivalists, also hailing from New Orleans closed out our NOLA day and the Amphitheatre stage for Hula 2018. This is their first time back since 2016, (though David Shaw did a solo set in 2017) and like Odesza have grown tremendously. If you are a fan of The Revs, you probably know that they like to their own surprise theme for Halloween. If this was your first show, like the confused person behind me, it was a great surprise! The guys came out full throttle, all in a different color Adidas track suit, jumping and yelling, “YOU GOTTA FIGHT, FOR YOUR RIGHT, TO PAAARRRRRRRTY!” (Was this an underlying message of the ongoing “fight for your right” theme throughout the fest? Or just a coincidence?) They went right back into Revivalists mode singing songs from their last album Men Amongst Mountains, a few oldies like Criminal and slowed it down with a crowd favorite, Soulfight.
They also played their latest #1 hits Wish I Knew You and All My Friends and then went straight back into Beastie Boy mode for a Sabotage encore. Lead man, David Shaw, engaged with the audience the entire set tagging hands and jumping in and out of the crowd and ended the set thanking the audience for being kind to one another. He said he could clearly see the love amongst us and reminded everyone to continue take care of each other and to vote. If you weren’t a fan of The Revivalists when you came to this set, you definitely were when you left. Their new album, Take Good Care comes out on November 9 and you can pre-order it via the band's official website.
Suwannee Hulaween 2018 was almost over, and there were only 3 sets left to catch… unfortunately they were all at the same time. Festival goers had to choose between the Brooklyn based funk band Turkuaz on the Spirit Lake Stage, electronic music DJ, Gramatik in the Patch and the inspiring and powerful female presence of Janelle Monae on the Meadow main stage.
Janelle Monae was an important closer to the ongoing theme of the fest because she enforces messages of equality and love, which are both important in today’s social and political climate, not to mention this woman can SING! And DANCE! Her production was bright, bold and beautiful just like her and her music. She spoke her truth and encouraged everyone to find theirs. It was perfect. (Note: I gave myself a blister trying to dance like her a few years ago at Jazz Fest. I refrained from doing that this time. Mostly because my legs were still dead from dancing to Jamiroquai the night before)
DID YOU FIND THE SECRET UNDERGROUND BALL PIT?
These moments are only a drop in the bucket with everything that you could have experienced on the SOSMP grounds. I’ve been to a lot of festivals and easily average 5-10 a year, and Suwannee Hulaween takes the cake as my favorite. From the art and ambiance, logistics and layout, organization, community and diverse lineup, it’s a true fantasy world and we are lucky enough to get to play in it. With over 80 miles danced/walked, I’ve officially put another Hula in the books. Stay tuned for early bird tickets and snag them while you can. The past 2 years have completely sold out and I’d really love for you to join me next year for a new set of beautiful experiences!
Life On The Road With Spafford: An Interview With Jordan Fairless October 26, 2018 12:16
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Gov't Mule Brings Rock Show to Birmingham's Lyric Theatre October 26, 2018 08:06
Words by Sharee Christian
Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
Touring behind their most recent album, 2017's Revolution Come...Revolution Go. Gov't Mule brought their show to the beautiful, historic Lyric Theatre on Tuesday night for the first show of two in Birmingham, Alabama. Although I've seen Warren and co. many times before. The Lyric Theater was made to maximize acoustics with the close seating feel it has in an intimate venue. The restoration was breathtaking. There's a saying amongst Widespread Panic fans. “Never miss a Sunday show”. Well never miss a Gov't Mule show at the Lyric.
The full moon turned out lots of amazing events for the night. Amazing set (see below), front row seats, and two guitar picks. I couldn't ask for a more memorable music experience. The venue's acoustics, Warren's rugged, feels like home voice, amazing friends old and new made my soul shine last night.
The band's final show on this 13-date tour will end November 3rd, but the highly anticipated Mule-O-Ween show at The Tabernacle will be in Atlanta on October 27th. You don't want to miss that!
Setlist - Gov't Mule - The Lyric Theatre - Birmingham, AL - 10.23.18
Set 1: Traveling Tune, Thorazine Shuffle, Banks Of The Deep End, Game Face > Mountain Jam > Game Face, The Man I Want To Be, Sco-Mule (with Smoke On The Water tease), Whisper In Your Soul, Fool's Moon
Set 2: Mule (with Midnight Rider tease), Pressure Under Fire, Revolution Come, Revolution Go, Painted Silver Light, Lively Up Yourself, Bad Little Doggie > Mother Earth World Boss (with Third Stone From The Sun, Voodoo Child, Eleanor Rigby & Mule teases)
Encore: Dreams & Songs
Here's Why We're Stoked For Hulaween This Weekend October 22, 2018 15:26
The Suwannee Hulaween celebration is fast becoming one of the premier music festivals in the country. October 25th-28th, The String Cheese Incident and Purple Hat Productions, along with The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, are pulling out all the stops to make this year’s Hulaween festival the biggest Halloween party yet. This weekend is sure to be an unforgettable four days of music and experiences. What sets Hulaween apart from other festivals is the incomparable setting of Suwanee. Set in Live Oak, FL amongst 800-acres of Spanish moss draped oak and cypress, The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park is easily one of the most beautiful music venues in the country.
On top of the natural beauty of Suwannee, the Spirit Lake experience takes the multi-day music festival to a new level. Full of lighting, pyrotechnics, art installations, performance art, and music, this interactive space creates a community atmosphere that encourages festival goers to engage with the surroundings and each other.
The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park has been host of many great music festivals such as Wanee, Aura, The Purple Hatter’s Ball, and Suwannee River Jam, but Hulaween is unlike any other to come to the park. Similar to other festivals hosted by The String Cheese Incident, Suwannee Hulaween is more than just a lot of bands in the same place. It’s an experience that will be hard to forget. The String Cheese Incident, will return to Spirit of Suwannee music park to headline all three nights of the festival. ODESZA, Jamiroquai and Janelle Monáe will be joining them as headliners and bringing their own unique flavor to the fest.
It's not just the headliners that makes this years festival so special. With artists such as Tipper, The Revivalists, STS9, Gramatik, Lettuce, Emancipator, Galactic, The Polish Ambassador, and Yonder Mountain String Band, there’s a little something for everyone at Hulaween.
This years pre party is going to be something special as well. Hulaween veterans Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, STS9, and Lettuce all return for a night that could stand with most full festival lineups. Some of my personal favorites CBDB and Funk You will perform also to help kick off Hulaween in proper fashion. This years festival is one not to be missed, and we look forward to providing coverage throughout the weekend.
Watch the official Hulaween (2017) after movie here:
Spafford Brings Jam-Filled Performance to Birmingham's Saturn October 22, 2018 13:51
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos and Video by Isom Morgan Photography
This past Friday night, Birmingham music fans received something that they had been anxiously awaiting: two full sets of Spafford. While the band performed a 45-minute opening set for Umphrey's McGee at Avondale Brewery just a few months ago, fans were left wanting so much more. Friday night's performance at Saturn did not disappoint, as the band provided a jam-filled, palpable energy over the course of three plus hours. This would also be my first non-festival experience with Spafford, and I couldn't have walked away more satisfied.
The first set began with a brief technical issue, which the Spafford team couldn't have handled more professionally. After a quick pause, the band returned to the stage, and everyone was ready to jam. Bassist Jordan Fairless led the way on the "The Fireman," before we went for a wild ride with "In The Eyes of Thieves," the first of several tunes from the band's 2012 self-titled release. "My Road (My Road)" would follow, while one of my personal favorites, "The Postman," was next on the list. The first set would ultimately close with another older original, "Galisteo Way," which guitarist Brian Moss led the way through.
Keyboardist Andrew "Red" Johnson shined on the second set opener, "Red's Jam," before Moss ripped into the heavy-hitting intro to "Weasel." This tune has somewhat of a heavy-metal vibe to it, accompanied by catchy vocals and moments of 'jamtronic' vibes. The jam then segued into "Dis Go in 5?" and eventually led back into the closing segment of "Weasel." Fairless would take lead vocals on the bluesy "Shake It Loose," and arguably my favorite Spafford original, "Ain't That Wrong," closed out the second set on the highest of notes. After a brief exit from stage, the band encored with a killer take on the Grateful Dead's "West L.A. Fadeaway." While I've heard a number of bands perform this classic Dead tune, this was easily one of my favorite renditions that I've heard.
I can't say enough about this band and the entire team surrounding them. Watching their continuous progression up the ranks of the jam/festival scene in recent years has been truly remarkable. I'd listened to hours of their music, while catching three separate one-set performances before Friday night. Finally witnessing two full sets of Spafford in a packed, indoor venue was more than enough to seal the deal. This band is just getting started, and we can expect to see them continue to test the boundaries of musical improvisation for many years to come.
Setlist: Spafford - Saturn Birmingham (AL) - 10.19.18
Set 1: The Fireman, In The Eyes of Thieves, My Road (My Road), The Postman, Galisteo Way
Set 2: Red's Jam > Weasel  > Dis Go in 5? > Weasel, Shake You Loose, Ain't That Wrong
Encore: West L.A. Fadeaway
Notes:  "Palisades" tease
Watch a Spafford's performance of "West L.A. Fadeaway" here:
Doom Flamingo: A Wild 80’s Synthwave Party That Never Ends October 22, 2018 11:02
Words and Photos by Nicholas Lintz
The Aquaducks Drop Funky New Single October 19, 2018 13:32
Photo by Stephanie McKendrick
Nashville-based funk band The Aquaducks are premiering a brand new groovy single today entitled “Feels Like”. “Feels like what?” you might ask. Well, as guitarist Zach Sheffler says, “‘Feels Like’ is the perfect song to put on in your car, roll your windows down, and cruise.” Featuring Tre Houston on the second verse, “Feels Like” combines the hip hop element with funk/jazz in a style that derives rhythmic elements from Lettuce, and The Motet, while featuring instrumental layering reminiscent of the early works of Dr. Dre. Lead vocalist and keyboardist Cavanaugh Mims elaborates, “We had been listening to a lot of west coast hip hop around the time we wrote the song. It felt right to bring in Tre to rap the second verse, and he totally nailed the vibe that we had in mind.”
All Things Neal Casal: One of America's Most Intriguing Guitarists October 19, 2018 12:46
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
When I finally decided to put Live & Listen into motion four years ago, one of my many goals was to create a valuable platform for up-and-coming bands. Through this, I would attempt to line up a variety of artist interviews, in an attempt to learn more about the music that I love. Thanks to a tremendous amount of love and support, this outlet has grown into what it is today.
In July of 2015, I musically peaked at Soldier Field in Chicago. This would be the closest experience I would ever have to a weekend with the Grateful Dead. The core four members would join forces with my favorite current musician, Trey Anastasio, as well as Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti. Entering the weekend, there was a notable buzz about the music and archival Dead video footage being played. It had a strong Garcia sound to it, but no one knew exactly who was behind it.
The world then learned that the band would be called Circles Around The Sun, which was led by guitarist Neal Casal. The response to this music was so strong, that the band officially took form in the summer of 2016 and have been pushing musical boundaries ever since. Earlier this week, I caught up with Neal to discuss this whole experience, his previous solo work, touring with the likes of Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Hard Working Americans, and much more.
Let's start off with some background info. How did you get started playing music? When did this become a reality as a career?
Neal: I started playing music when I was twelve. I started playing guitar and was inspired by The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, and all the great English blues/rock bands. I joined some bands in middle school and high school. I was just obsessed with music, you know? It just took over my mind at a very early age. I couldn't stop thinking about it. It became a real obsession.
I guess it was around by junior year in high school when it comes time to speak with your guidance counselor to start deciding what your future is going to be. While all the other kids were deciding on colleges, I was deciding that I was going to live this gypsy life and make a life in music somehow. I set out to do it, and I did.
I'd say that was a pretty good decision.
Neal: Well, it was a good decision in many ways. In other ways, it's a pretty scary, unstable decision. There are a lot of things that people have at my age that I don't. It can be a risky thing. If you don't get really successful in music, it can be a tough road. There's no guaranteed stability or security in it. Those things get important as you get older, so it's hard to navigate if you haven't set those things up.
I don't regret my life in music though. I've certainly accomplished a lot. I've made people happy through my music and made friends all over the world. I made a lot of the dreams I had come true, so that part is cool (laughs).
I think that's a common misconception among music fans. They start seeing their favorite bands playing bigger venues and festivals, and they just assume that you're living the "rock star life."
Neal: That's true. Mine hasn't really been a rock star life. Granted, I've gotten to travel the world and see a lot of things that other people haven't. Some of the other life building events that people go though...I haven't had some of those things. It gets harder as you get older. I've definitely had an amazing life in music. That's for sure. I've gotten to make so many records, tour, take photographs, write songs, meet new friends, and all of that.
That's great. I know you touched on this topic just now, and you've probably answered this one many times, but I can't help but ask about your influences. Your overall tone and style of play is amongst my favorites.
Neal: Oh it's just an amalgamation of all the guitar players that I love. Starting with all all four of the Rolling Stones' guitarists: Mick Taylor, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Brian Jones. Then you have Neil Young, Steven Stills, Buffalo Springfield, Spirit, The Byrds, and all the California country / psychedelic rock stuff. Ry Cooder is a great slide player. Peter Green is another guy. The Grateful Dead is certainly in there too.
I don't know. I guess just listening to so much music for so many years, and having it all kind of synthesize into hopefully my own. I think you can hear pretty clearly the different influences that I carry with me. Maybe the combination that I've put together is a little bit different than others. I haven't invented anything as a guitar player. I've definitely put together a kit of influences that is pretty user friendly.
As a lead player, Mick Taylor was probably my main influence. There are all the great rhythm players, even the AC/DC guitar players. There's all the weird stuff, like the experimental sonic youth style music. Glenn Branca and all of those avant garde players that I wouldn't compare myself with. I do take some of that on, as far as atmospherics and damaged / chaotic sounds. I could go on and on. It's a long list.
I can imagine. Correct me if I'm wrong on this, but you released six solo albums between 1994 and 2000, right?
Neal: Yeah. That sounds right.
I was wondering how this experience leading your own project early on prepare you for your future work with Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson, Hard Working Americans, and others?
Neal: Well those were years spent learning to be a songwriter, you know? At the end of that day, no matter what kind of player you are, every player needs a song to sing or play. Those were the years I was learning to sing, write songs, make records, and play guitar in a record making fashion. Not really as some type of virtuoso instrumentalist, which I'm not and never will be. Learning to use the guitar as a songwriting and record making tool, rather than a focus of instrumental prowess or experimentation.
At that time in the 90's, I wasn't jamming so much as I was really trying to make good records and write good, concise songs. Three to four minute songs. How to really write a tune. How to compose and make good sounding records with good ensemble playing. Yeah, singing as well. Harmony singing, lead singing, all of it.
Those are the foundation of all of my skills really. I took those, of course, into playing with Ryan (Adams), because Ryan is a songwriter first and foremost. That's really his thing. He's a great singer, great guitar player, but ultimately, he will be known for his songs. I stepped right in and had the ability to play his songs and sing harmonies with him. My record making experience prior to that all came in handy.
With Chris (Robinson), it was the same thing. He's a singer and a songwriter. That's what sets us apart from some of the other jam bands out there. We're really a song and harmony band. All that stuff from the 90's, it keeps informing me now. It informed everything I did with the Hardworking Americans as well. Same thing. Todd Snider is a songwriter. I know how to play with singer songwriters, because I learned to be one when I was younger.
It's strong foundations to work from. I've become sort of known as this guitar player over the last few years. Being a part of this scene with Phil (Lesh), CRB, and Circles Around The Sun, but I'm not a virtuoso guitar player. I never have been. I was never known as one. I can't compete or keep up with a lot of these people I've gotten to play with and come to know. Jimmy Herring, Scott Metzger, and all of these really great guitar players on this scene. I don't consider myself one of them really.
I'm a good guitar player for sure, but I come from a different background. More of a songwriting and singing background. Just being in a band, you know? Rock bands, really.
Well let's talk about Circles Around the Sun. I was lucky enough to attend Fare Thee Well in Chicago. There was already a buzz about the set break music by the time we got to Soldier Field. How did this all come together?
Neal: It came together over a series of events that took a few years to gestate. It came about through a guy named Justin Kreutzmann, who is Bill Kreutzmann's son. Bill is obviously the drummer for the Grateful Dead. Justin is a great filmmaker, and he was put in charge of the visuals for the "Fare Thee Well" shows. This meant that on each side of the stage there were those big screens. They showed archival Grateful Dead footage and psychedelic montages going down to keep the audience entertained while the band wasn't playing.
I was asked by Justin to create an instrumental soundtrack to go along with those images. The reason he asked me is because we first met back in 2012. There was a film project called Move Me Brightly. It was done for what would have been Jerry Garcia's 70th birthday. That was done at Bob Weir's TRI Studios. Justin and I became friends at that point, and a few years later, he asked me to score Bob Weir's film, The Other One.
That went well, so Justin and I had been building on this relationship for a few years. He asked me to step in and do the music for the Fare Thee Well Shows. So, I put a band together. I asked Adam (MacDougall) from CRB, as well as Dan Horne and Mark Levy. We had very little time to prepare. We had no time to prepare, actually. We didn't write anything ahead of time. We just stepped into the studio and did everything on the spot.
We just tried to imagine the kind of music that we would want to hear if we were at a Grateful Dead show and hanging out at intermission. So we just imagined it and made it up on the spot. Just improvising a bunch of music over the course of two days. We got very lucky in the fact that people liked it.
Amazing. From what I recall, that ultimately led to the band's formal announcement and first performance at LOCKN', right?
Neal: Our first performance was actually at LOCKN' the following year (2016). But yes, when we did the music, there was no band name or intention of releasing it. It was music made for the purpose of those shows. People got really into it, and then Rhino approached us about releasing it. It all took on a life of it's own, because people liked it so much. We had no idea that people would like it at all. We didn't know that it would ever get that type of reaction. It was a huge shock to us, as a matter of fact. I wasn't sure if anyone would like it or think it was any good at all. We weren't sure if it was good. The fact that people flipped out the way that they did was an amazing surprise and a great bit of serendipity, you know?
The band released it's second album, Let it Wander, back in August. I've read that you guys feel like it was more like your first release. Can you elaborate on that a little more?
Neal: When we formed the group for the project, we had no idea if it would work. Would we have any chemistry? There wasn't much thought of it going past that Fare Thee Well project. As it turned out, we really sounded and felt like a band. There was really no reason to let it end there. That first batch of recordings went so well. Then we started doing shows, and those felt good too. We started coming up with song ideas and sound checks, and it just seemed natural that we should try it again and make another record.
As good as the first record was, it was actually really rushed. We did it in two days, and we didn't really mix it properly. It felt like just the beginning of something, so we decided to see if we could take it further and make an even better record. We went back to the same studio, wrote a bunch of material, and did it.
Honestly, I think it is superior to the first record. I really do. I think we furthered our ideas, refined them, and honed them in a lot better. I think this is a much more focused record, and sonically, it's a lot better as well. The first one was really just introduction to what we could do. We want to take it as far as we can. Take expectations and smash them through the roof, you know?
Watch the music video for Circles Around The Sun's "One for Chuck" here:
Absolutely. So you've continued to be one of the busiest guitarists in the scene, leading this band while also touring with CRB and formerly Hard Working Americans. I know there are other projects in there as well. Where do you begin when balancing your schedule?
Neal: It's gotten a lot easier, because now it's just CRB and Circles. Hard Working Americans made it really hard for a few years. That made it tough, because CRB and HWA were both playing a lot of the same venues and touring all of the time. That was really difficult, but now that that has ended, at least for now, CRB and Circles are much easier to manage. Having that third band in there made it tough.
Two bands...I can handle that. I'm in another band called The Skiffle Players with Dan Horn, the bassist for Circles. Skiffle Players are an amazing group, but we don't play a whole lot, so it's not that hard to navigate.
Well, just to finish up, soon you'll be gearing up for a big January run with Greensky Bluegrass. How valuable will this exposure be for you guys? What else can we expect from CATS in 2019?
Neal: Well, we're going to have a very short set each night. 45-50 minutes each night, which will be interesting. Circles music, as you know, takes a long time to unfold, so it's going to be interesting to see how we can do our thing within a really condensed amount of time. We've never had to do that before, but we're very excited to play with that band and get in front of their audiences. Hopefully, it will be a good fit. We're honored that they're taking us out. Hopefully, we can make us some new fans and generate some momentum for more shows and recordings.
I'd like to get back in the studio and make another Circles record next year. I just want to keep pushing this thing as far as it can go. I think we have a lot of music in us, and I love the idea of being in an instrumental band that can just weave these sonic tapestries of people. After years of being just a singer songwriter, it's really interesting and challenging for me to push myself in this direction.
Mark, Dan, and Adam are such amazing players. It's just a great opportunity to make these interesting sounds for people. They either pay attention or forget about it. Use it as background or foreground music. Maybe go to sleep to it, or wake up to it. Whatever you feel like doing. It's cool music. I just find it to be an interesting concept. There is something very satisfying about our sound. It lets me play guitar that I never have before. Those guys support me in a way that I've never experienced, and I hope I do the same for them. It's a cool group. We're just gonna keep going until we've said all that we have to say, I guess.
I couldn't agree more. I loved everything from the first release, and I'm getting much more familiar with the new album. It's great to hear more about the band's vision, because there is a tremendous amount of potential.
Neal: Yeah, there is a lot potential. There's some Krautrock influences that we didn't really have at all the first time. Creating music for the specific purpose of getting people to dance is really cool. I like having a direction in that way. We're not out there to give people our message through lyrics. It's only a rhythmic and energetic message. I'm really into that. It's like sign language or something. It's a different way of communicating.
That's really interesting. I've never thought about it from that perspective.
Neal: It's a way of speaking. It's a different language. You're not doing it through singing or words. You're doing it through this other means. It's cool to see if you can get through to people in that way. I like it. At Circles shows, when things are really going right, everyone gets into this sway. I can look at the audience and see them moving back and forth. If we can sustain that motion for an entire show, then we have succeeded. There's just a feeling about it that when it's working, there's this particular motion that I notice in a crowd. It's a really positive feeling. It's something that I want to do more of.
I can imagine that's a pretty rewarding feeling.
Neal: It's cool, for sure.
Watch the music video for Circles Around The Sun's "Gilbert's Groove" here:
CukoRakko: The Southeast's Best Kept Secret October 12, 2018 12:00
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Oteil Burbridge: The Luckiest Man Alive October 09, 2018 21:00
Interview by Brett Hutchins
The rumbles of the Allman Brothers freight train and the ecstatic bliss of the Grateful Dead have had one singular common thread - low end master Oteil Burbridge. As bassist for the final edition of The Allman Brothers and now the ever-popular Dead and Company, Burbridge is well aware of his place in jam history and how lucky he is. But these gigs didn’t just happen. They’ve been stewing together since birth, immersed in a musical childhood, and pried and prodded by jam philosopher-in-chief, Col. Bruce Hampton. In front of a headlining gig at this weekend’s Suwannee Roots Revival, Burbridge dove deep with Live and Listen about Col. Bruce’s life lessons, fatherhood, the similarities of church and the Grateful Dead experience, and the importance of, at the very least, remembering to always try. If luck is when preparation meets opportunity, Oteil is its preeminent example.
You were immersed in the arts as a kid. How important was this to your future success?
Oteil: Absolutely crucial. Some of it you have to realize was necessity. It’s a good thing they looked at it that way. They were trying to keep us off the street. They threw everything at us - music, art, dance, acting, visual arts. They wanted to see what stuck and what we liked most. We were enjoying all of it. But for me and my brother Kofi, music was the strongest one. I also learned from my mom that your job was going to take up a huge chunk of your life time wise, so you should make it something you love. Mom enjoyed her work, and my dad not so much. I learned what kind of toll that can take on a person.
Were you and your brother having musical conversations as soon as you started banging on those instruments?
Oteil: He’s older than me, and it took me a while to be able to play anywhere near his level, which I’m still nowhere near. They discovered he had perfect pitch when he was seven years old, so he was someone that excelled at a really extreme rate. That was good for me because A - I thought that was normal, and B - it’s the mark I was shooting for. It helped me to push to where he was.
So it’s always been aspirational from you looking up to him?
Oteil: It still is. I’m still trying to catch up. By the time we were teenagers, we were starting to play together, so it took me a while.
Your name means explorer and wander in Egyptian. Do you ever feel like you were meant to play this type of exploratory music from the get-go?
Oteil: Oh yeah. And be on the road all the time. The African tradition is that your name has something to do with your destiny, so in my case, it was dead-on.
Talk about the Atlanta scene that got you started.
Oteil: When I moved to Atlanta with Kofi, we were just playing in cover bands, wedding bands, jazz bands. Anything to make ends meet. We had a rough time financially, but fortunately I met Col. Bruce, and my whole life took a complete left turn. I couldn’t have even begun to predict or envision how far to the left my career would go after meeting him. It was a great preparation for the Allman Brothers and Dead and Company. We had so much fun in that band mixing funk, bluegrass and blues, rock, everything. It was crazy. And more importantly, fun. That’s another lesson from Bruce - always have fun.
Was that relationship electric from the get go? He seems like the type of guy that as soon as you shook his hand, you knew something special was going.
Oteil: I’d say within 20 minutes of meeting him, I knew I was going to follow him.
What were the most important things he taught you, either in life or music?
Oteil: So many things. He taught me a new way of listening to music. I listened to music as a musician, but he taught me to listen as a human. He always stressed that in my playing. He wanted to hear all the other sides of you. He wanted music that sweats and bleeds and isn’t all dressed up and perfect. He liked that too, but you have to have both sides to really make it work.
You get that from a lot of folk , bluegrass, country, and blues. It does sweat. It does bleed. It’s like life. Sure you sometimes laugh and get all dressed up and perfumed up, but he wanted the pain, too. That’s something I now listen to in other people’s playing. A lot of the music I used to listen to doesn’t do it for me anymore, because it doesn’t sweat or bleed. I can’t smell it. I need more of the whole package.
So more feeling vs. thinking?
Oteil: Yes. I love intelligent playing, but if all I hear in someone’s music is how clever they are, it just isn’t enough for me anymore. When you’re a musician that’s just starting to play, and you came up in jazz and classical and all that, you’re focused on the mechanics and making sure you can actually play it. But that can quickly become the sole focus. When that happens, it’s a narrow vision of what music is capable of.
Watch Oteil performing w/ Col. Bruce & Aquarium Rescue Unit (1992) here:
You mention that back in those days you were super snobby about what you were listening to. What would Oteil from that era think about a pop star like John Mayer joining your band?
Oteil: I wasn’t even aware of him back then. I was deeply immersed in what happened in early recorded music. I had gone back to the mid to late 40’s and once Col Bruce came on board, we went back to the 20s and 30s and started studying classical as well. I had zero idea of what was going on on the radio.
Even at my age of 50, when I heard John Mayer was going to be a part of it, it surprised me. But I’ve learned you never know what’s going to happen and to never prejudge. Of course in being in the band with him, I was hoping people would give me, and us as a band, that same chance. If it wasn’t happening, it wasn’t happening. People can tell if the magic is there. We felt it as soon as we started rehearsing, but we didn’t know if the fans were going to buy it. Fortunately, they were feeling the same thing that we feel.
Was there a bit of a brotherhood between you, him, and Chimenti because of not being part of the core original members?
Oteil: Of course, as much because of our age than anything.
Is there a concerted effort by the three of you to inject some adrenaline into the shows sometimes?
Oteil: Yes, but it’s nothing that’s intellectually premeditated. We have a lot of energy, and that’s naturally going to happen. It’s not something we think about, in fact, it’s often times the opposite in that we have to force ourselves to reel it in or curtail it a little bit and not go off all the way too soon.
I’ve been following John for a while, and I know how excited he can get, not only when something’s clicking musically, but also how intensely he studies it.
Oteil: It’s good to have that tension. It’s good to play with cats that are older than you, and it’s good to see both sides of it with your own eyes and feel it. It’s good for us.
How intimidating were those first days of the Dead and Company experience, and how did you conquer those fears?
Oteil: You don’t. I tell my students all the time. You have to embrace doing it afraid. That’s another thing Col. Bruce used to always talk about. He called it embracing the mirror of embarrassment. You’re essentially getting naked on stage. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it. You have to be vulnerable and be willing to let the world see everything up there. I get nervous before I play. My stomach will be knotted up, but once we’re into a few songs the joy will rise up and obliterate the nerves.
Listen to John Mayer discuss playing w/ Oteil on 'Tales From The Golden Road' here:
Did you spend any time in the church growing up? Do see much of a connection between the secular musical experience and the church?
Oteil: I didn’t grow up in church. My parents were really scarred by the church, so much so that my dad was heavily against it. I had a very spiritual experience when I bottomed out at around age forty, and that caused me to investigate it. I’m sure I’d be considered a heretic now, but I do see a great correspondence between improvisational music - the dancing, the ecstatic nature of the beast - and spirituality of all kinds, whether it’s in church or not. When you get into this trance that music will get you, then your awareness is heightened. When you do it all together with a bunch of people, you achieve this group consciousness that really has a lot of what I believe is supernatural power. I do see a lot of correspondence. Probably more of the Pentecostal churches, where the music is a huge part of it, and it’s not subdued. It’s jammin’ pretty hard.
Especially in these big crowds with the Dead and Company shows. It gets stereotyped, but the energy is there. It’s palpable. You can feel it.
Oteil: It is, and it’s not like any other crowd. I’ve seen so many different bands and crowds, and this is a whole different animal. It’s a real positive time. We’re in a stadium playing a "Bird Song" or "Dark Star" that reminds me of a Miles Davis ballad for 20 or 30 minutes, and people are really listening. That’s something. People are really tuned in. It’s a different thing that I am super fortunate to experience from the stage.
How does being a new father approach either life or music?
Oteil: It’s changed everything. Every cliche is so true. He’s three and a half, and I can’t wait for him to get home from school so we can play. You always hear that you can’t imagine the quality of love that you will feel for your child. You won’t know until you have a child. It’s different than any sort of love - mom, dad, brother, sister, even your spouse. If you embrace it though, it can even deepen your love of your spouse. When we’re together, I’m like he’s part me and part her. It’s nuts. I had him late. I had him at 50, so my mind is at a better place, so I know to savor it and how quick it’s going to go.
You’re back at Suwannee Roots Revival Thursday with Oteil and Friends this weekend. Who are your friends?
Oteil: Scott Metzger (JRAD) on guitar, John Kadlecik (Further) on guitar, Jay Lane (Ratdog) on drums, Weedie Braimah on percussion, Alfreda Gerald on percussion, Jason Crosby (Phil & Friends) on keys, who used to play with me with the Peacemakers. It’s going to be smoking.
What makes the Suwannee grounds so special?
Oteil: I’ve always loved it. I’ve played there before the Allman Brothers, maybe five years before the Allman Brothers started playing there. The very last Wanee we did with the Allman Brothers, my wife and I camped there. I don’t even know if the moon was full, but the trails were so lit up even at night that we could see how to get back to the tent. All those trails were so lit up, and it was so mystical. I just remember being like “WHOA,” this is why they call it the SPIRIT of Suwannee. I could totally feel it. After all those years playing, I finally got the full taste by camping and got the whole shabang. It’s so beautiful.
In watching you play and reading your interviews, you seem like you are extremely in tune with the beauty of the world around you and how lucky you truly are. Do you have any sort of routine to keep that positivity flowing?
Oteil: It’s a constant fight on this planet. I’m trying to embrace all of it. I always say that the key to my happiness is getting closer and closer to radical acceptance. You can’t have peace all the time. It’s like the sun being out all the time. Night has to exist. I get better at not dealing with the negative stuff, but accepting it for what it is. I fail all the time. Try running through the airport with a three year old. That little guy knows he can work us. He wins sometimes, and I lose it. I try to do my best, but I’m just average.
It’s also realize easier for me. I play music for a living. I’m not driving hours to the office to a job I can’t stand. Life is going to challenge you, so just try. Trying counts for something.
Despite Hurricane Michael, this weekend’s Suwannee Roots Revival is still on at the beautiful Spirit of Suwannee Music Park.
The Road to CukoRakko: Scott Ferber of The Jauntee October 03, 2018 17:33
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
If you're a music lover in Alabama, you've more than likely heard about an amazing grassroots festival known as CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. Founded in 2014, the festival has been held twice a year at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. As we prepare for another unforgettable CukoRakko weekend on October 5th - 7th, we're sitting down and getting to know a few of the performers on the 2018 Fall Festival lineup. For our fifth and final installment, we caught up Scott Ferber (drums) of The Jauntee, who will be performing at 7:45 PM on Friday, October 5th. See below for the full interview, as well as video footage of The Jauntee performing live.
Simplicity in Song and in Life: Lessons from Edward David Anderson October 02, 2018 15:03
Interview by Brett Hutchins
Photos by Kim Anderson
Simplicity in Song and in Life
Lessons from Singer-Songwriter Edward David Anderson’s Trek Through the Appalachian Trail
“My mind’s been playin’ tricks
When I’m out here in the sticks.
It’s like everything is right
And nothing’s wrong.”
-EDA, Only in My Dreams - Release Date: 10/19
There’s an independent streak that runs through everything you do - whether it’s the nomadic lifestyle or the “pick up and play wherever you want” attitude of your music. Where’s that come from?
EDA: Well, I've never been a fan of being told what to do and have always liked the idea of controlling my own destiny. It could have something to do with my dad not really digging his career choice and being around that scene growing up. He certainly never dreamt of being a union plumber in city of Chicago, but he did what he did to take care of his family. I've never really thought about it, but looking back, I'm thinking I decided at a young age that I was going to do something that I loved.
And now, being solo has allowed my wife and I to experience a whole new level of independence. We're able to spend winters on the beach, play/travel as much or as little as we desire, we've started our own Black Dirt Records label, we handle my management and bookings; we're actually completely self-contained!
So my father, who taught me the chords on guitar, showed me what I did and didn't want to do.
What initially sparked the idea of leaving the snows of the Midwest for the shores of Alabama. It had to have been more than just the weather. How many years have you been doing that now?
EDA: This'll be our 6th year migrating south. First and foremost, we didn't want to face the brutality of another Midwestern winter. Period. It gets in your head. For real. It's psychologically debilitating.
And we were looking for a change after losing both of our mothers within a year of each other. Kim quit her job, we sold our Rock School, I made my first solo record, we bought a 1986 Nu Way Hitchhiker (the Cadillac of RVs in 1986) and headed to Lower Alabama.
Was Alabama the desired destination or was it more of a “let’s see where we end up” kind of trip?
EDA: Yep. I had visited Gulf Shores many years before while on tour with Backyard Tire Fire. We had a couple of days off in between Tallahassee and NOLA, so we stayed with a friend and discovered the beaches of LA. We also found that there was a lot of music happening in the region, lots of venues, writers, pickers, etc.
So we were very aware of our destination when we set out for that RV park in Elberta, AL 6 years ago. That said, I had no real contacts for shows, so it was a hustle from the get go. I hit open mics for the first time in years, took all sorts of gigs all over the place down there, and figured out how to make it swing. We were lucky to meet great folks within the first week that are still our friends today.
What’s so special about Alabama? Both Muscle Shoals and Lower Alabama have been good to you.
EDA: The people. Lower Alabama was welcoming from Day 1. We arrived on a Saturday that first year and went out to the Frog Pond in Silverhill on that Sunday to see South Memphis String Band (Jimbo Mathis, Luther Dickenson, Alvin Youngblood Hart). The music and vibe were amazing and the people were genuinely interested in who we were and what we were doing in LA. We were overwhelmed (and still are) by how accepting folks are down there.
And then in Muscle Shoals, again, the people. I've always wanted to make a record there, but it needed to be the right batch of tunes and it needed to be with the right players. I wanted to record with folks that live and work in the Shoals. I wanted the personalities and experiences of the musicians to come through in their playing on the songs. Jimmy Nutt and I were fast friends and the folks he brought in to play on the record were awesome people and musicians.
Listen to Edward David Anderson's "Only In My Dreams" here:
One of my favorite lyrics off the new record is from “Only in My Dreams”:
“My mind’s been playin’ tricks
When I’m out here in the sticks.
It’s like everything is right
And nothing’s wrong.”
It seems to point to your Appalachian Trail adventure. How did that journey come about?
EDA: Ah yes. That tune is actually about a dream I had where my mom was still alive, and smiling and talking. And shortly after we embraced in the dream, I woke up, and wrote the song. So "out here in the sticks" is actually referring to the back woods of my mind/consciousness.
As for the Appalachian Trail, we first set foot on it shortly after we were married in 2000 and living in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Hot Springs, NC. We would do day hikes with our doggy, but never really understood what it was to spend weeks out there.
Flash forward 18 years. I was laying on the couch reading something about the AT and as I stood up and walked to the kitchen, I handed my phone to my wife and said something like, "You wanna do this?" And she said, "Hell yes!" So we decided to postpone the release of the record and began researching and reading and acquiring gear. I think we both were craving the challenge, the change, the isolation, the detox, etc. The never-ending hustle of the music biz, the dangers of travel, and the partying had all worn thin and we needed a reboot before launching Black Dirt Records and releasing Chasing Butterflies.
What kind of planning did you do for it and how much of the trail did you tackle?
EDA: We read tons, talked with folks that had done it, and did a few shakedown hikes. That's really about it. We had no real experience backpacking or remote camping and we were in the worst shape of our lives, but we are both notoriously head strong, and that worked to our advantage.
The original plan was to take 3 months and try to hike the first 1,000 miles to Harpers Ferry, WV. Pretty lofty, but you gotta think big, right? We ended up completing the first 200 miles over the course of a month, when I got a text from my friend in the band The Record Company asking if I wanted to come out and play some shows with them. At that time, Kim was going to continue on and I was going to hop off, do the shows, and meet back up with her.
But the Smokies were crowded with weekend warriors and the rain was incessant, so we decided to "tap out" at Clingman's Dome with a feeling of great accomplishment as we stepped off at the highest elevation on the AT. We went out on top!
We're hoping to pick it right back up where we left off at Clingman's Dome next May.
What are some of the most important lessons the trail taught you?
EDA: First, I'm capable of a whole lot more than I thought. I hadn't exercised in 20 years and went out there and climbed up and down mountains with 35 lbs on my back, 10 miles a day, through heat & rain, sleeping on the ground, hanging my food in a tree, eating tuna & mashed potatoes, pooping in the woods, pushing through blisters and general ongoing pain. It took about 10 days to get my lungs and legs back, but I felt relatively strong after the initial shock, and began to thrive.
It is beyond liberating to simply focus on walking. Just putting one foot in front of the other. Block everything else out. You get into a groove; a rhythm. All you have to think about it how far you're going to hike that day, where you're going to sleep, what and when you'll eat, etc. I loved it and have said many times upon returning that if we had stayed out there for the 3 months, I may never have come back.
We have always been aware of the fact that we have more than we need and have discussed downsizing at length. The AT experience really drove that home. We survived with next to nothing for a month. Do we really need this 3-bedroom house? I carried two pair of underwear, two t shirts, two pair of socks on the trail. Do I really need this dresser and closet full of stuff I don't wear? So I think we came out of it wanting to live more of a minimalistic life and eventually I think we'd like to live in the woods.
How do you see that experience influencing your songwriting?
EDA: There is a journal full of stories from our time out there. I've talked about turning it into a book. At the very least I'm certain some of those experiences will become songs. I've always subscribed to the "less is more" approach to writing and music in general, and I think the AT really hammered that ideology home. I'm feeling like my next album will be a more stripped down, bare bones recording; and the songs are some of the simplest I've written.
One thing that backpacking and hiking has taught me is the truth of the less-is-more philosophy. This comes through on your records. Is that a conscious effort by you?
EDA: I think my natural musical tendency is to want to "trim the fat" as my friend and Grammy winning producer and member of Los Lobos would say. It's not really a conscious effort, it's just how I want to hear things. I grew up on Tom Petty, Stones, Neil Young, etc. When you listen to those tunes, they are perfection. Everything is in its place and serves the song. It's all about the song.
Whether you know it or not, we first chatted years ago on Pensacola Beach about the Grateful Dead and all things in between. It’s interesting to me that a fan of the most gloriously meandering band of all-time is so invested in artistic simplicity. Where’s the connection?
EDA: Ha! I love the Dead. In fact I was just stuffing envelopes and listening to them yesterday. It may as well have been 1996. I've been stuffing envelopes while digging the Dead for more than 2 decades. Some things never change.
I think what originally drew me to the Grateful Dead was the improvisation and freedom of play between the musicians. I was 17 and my sister took me and a friend to Alpine Valley in 1989 and I was changed forever. First, I had never seen a scene quite like that. I don't think I knew what I was getting in to. It was a time warp and I dug it. And then the jamming and improv blew my mind. We didn't listen to jazz in my house growing up, so I wasn't really familiar with that kind of energy. I went home and started listening to Miles Davis and John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk and it opened up a whole new world of music.
So it was initially the improvisation that turned me on, but ultimately it's the songs that always bring me back. They have great songs. Simple tunes with melody and message. And there is a looseness that is endearing and human. I think that's what it is that gets me with the Dead; those songs and that loose vibe. They resonate with my heart and soul.
Watch the official promo video for 'Chasing Butterflies' here:
The Road to CukoRakko: The Brook & The Bluff October 01, 2018 23:46
The Road to CukoRakko: Lamont Landers Band September 28, 2018 13:24
Twiddle's Zdenek Gubb Discusses Songwriting, Southeast Tour, & More September 26, 2018 12:43
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Photos by Denis Semenyaka
With 12 years of relentless touring behind them, Vermont-based rock band Twiddle has built an impressive resume spanning Red Rocks to Bonnaroo, and multiple sellouts of historic rock venues including Port Chester, NY’s Capitol Theatre, and Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club. And with the second half of the band’s third studio album, PLUMP, on the horizon, the band’s career continues to catapult forward. Buoyed by the generous support of 359 Kickstarter donors, the 27-song album does more than showcase the group’s beautiful music, but also tells an important story, comprised in PLUMP Chapters 1 & 2. We recently caught up with Twiddle's Zdenek Gubb (bass) to discuss songwriting, characters, future recording plans, and much more.
Share this article from the Live & Listen Facebook page and tag a friend in the comments section for a chance to win a pair of tickets to Twiddle's show at Saturn Birmingham on Saturday, September 29th.
Twiddle has been officially rockin' for twelve years now. When exactly did you join the band, and how did that all come together?
Zdenek: I'll give it to you from my perspective. I was actually introduced to the band by a couple of friends when I was a junior in high school. My friends were like, "Hey, you look like the bass player from this band," and they were actually a really great band. I decided to check them out, and I fell in love with the music. I slowly met the guys, and a year later, when I was halfway through my senior year of high school, they asked me to join the band.
It worked out perfectly, in the sense that it felt like old friends coming back together, even though we didn't know each other that well. So before all of that, I was sneaking out of my parents house and trying to get into shows that were 21 and up, and I was only 17. I've been doing it ever since, and it's been a slow build and an awesome journey of discovery between ourselves. Developing these relationships with the band and people around us has been special.
I did not realize that. So you jumped in straight out of high school?
Zdenek: Yeah. You could say that I was lucky in the sense that I got injured really badly playing football. I would have had to continue doing that, but because of my injury, I had to stop doing that all together. That made it so when they called me, somehow I had the time to actually make it happen, and it worked out.
That's pretty wild man. Very cool. How do you guys go about the songwriting process? Any particular pattern or structure over the years?
Zdenek: Well, it's been different through the years, but originally it was a lot of lyrics written by Mihali (Savoulidis). He would bring the song to us, almost completely finished, and we have proceeded to write our own parts to all of the songs. That goes for everybody. We'll bring together a song, the lyrics, and everybody writes their own parts. I've had a couple of songs where I would actually write all of the parts and have to perform it. The thing that makes it unique is that we all get to do our own part and create something individually. That's what makes the music special, because we're all from different backgrounds.
That's how we did it originally, but now, we're starting to do it more cohesively and writing the parts all together. For example, "Orlando's," you had three of us writing our own parts and then smashing it all together to see what it sounds like. It worked out to be the sort of epic tune that we all had a big part in.
That leads perfectly into my next question. I've always loved the various characters involved in your music. Frankenfoote and the Jamflowman come to mind. Both are revisited in "Orlando's," along with references to several other tunes. Is this a story that you're continuing to develop?
Zdenek: That would be really cool. It's definitely something we've thought about. As the years have gone by, more and more characters come into fruition and turned into songs. It was just an idea we had to not only bring those characters together, but it made since that it would be at a bar.
We used our ability of writing it together, so that it's not just written by one person, but all of the pieces of ourselves put together into it. It actually feels like it is everyone being put together. I can't say that there is some grand scheme of something bigger than this, but that sounds like a pretty cool idea. Maybe in a year from now we'll do something bigger.
Last year marked the release of Plump Chapter 2, while Chapter 1 was released back in 2015. What was the strategy with this body of work as opposed to your previous albums?
Zdenek: Well, the general strategy was that we were going to put out a double disc, immediately (laughs). In the time that we put out Plump 1, that's the amount of time we were hoping to have put out the entire thing. It wasn't going to be a Chapter 1 or 2. We just didn't have the time, and we had all of this music that we wanted to put out.
We had to break it into two parts, and that's just how it went. Luckily, everyone was patient and thankful enough that we took our time on it. I think that was really important. Chapter 2 is only as good as it is because we took the time to focus on it.
Anything you can share regarding future recordings / releases?
Zdenek: Some people have asked about a Chapter 3. I don't think it's going to be a trilogy, but I would like to do more double disc albums. I guess the only thing I can say is that after the experience of Chapter 1 and 2, we realized that there is a whole other spectrum of genre, sound, and music that we can go into. I guess all I can say is that people should be excited to hear something new and different. We aren't going to go too far from the path we're on, but we're definitely putting out some new, unique stuff.
The stages, venues, and festival spots are continuing to get bigger. What do you guys do to stay grounded, focused, and motivated to keep building on this success?
Zdenek: You know...hmm...it's tough to answer that because I don't think we've ever even thought about it. We keep ourselves grounded by little things like playing Super Nintendo on the bus and keeping things chill. We don't think of ourselves like...how should I put this? Just continue to play like the underdog and work on yourselves. We're almost playing to the sense of never thinking that we're as good as we really want to be. So, that kind of grounds us in the sense of striving to get better and better. It's never a thought of "Man, we're the shit!" It's more like, "Man, we sound like shit! Let's get better."
That's the right attitude. With success comes positive attention, as well as critics. I think it's important not to get too tied up with either side.
Zdenek: True, but it's always good to have your ear to the ground and respect that come of those criticisms has a little bit of knowledge that you can learn from. So, we don't ignore all of the criticisms, but you have to take everything with a grain of salt.
Absolutely. So more specifically, the band is back in the southeast for the first time in a while. How has this run treated you guy thus far? Have you felt the southern hospitality?
Zdenek: Everybody has been really cool. The shows have been great down here. The numbers have been great. It's our first time ever doing five shows in a row down here in Florida. It was great. The only thing I have to say is damn was it hot! Sweating so much. That was brutal. Everyone was nice enough that they still wanted to give you a hug when you got off stage and you're soaking wet.
It's been absolutely brutal down here this summer. We're all anxiously awaiting for it to cool down in Alabama.
Zdenek: Oh yeah? Are you going to be in Birmingham?
Yeah. I'm planning on driving over on Saturday.
Zdenek: Dude...I am pumped about that show. Last time we played Birmingham was one of my favorite shows we've ever done. The whole group felt that way too. There was just something about it. We're pumped. It's gonna be something special.
There is a really great music scene in Birmingham right now. I've only been to this venue (Saturn) twice, but it's a really unique, intimate spot.
Zdenek: That's another nice thing. You mentioned us playing bigger shows. The nice thing about us doing this run down south. For me, it's just really fun. With the big shows, there is some pressure. Not too much pressure. It's exciting, but to go back and do these smaller shows really reminds you where you came from and how fun it's been.
Love hearing that. Before we wrap up, the calendar is stacked through the end of the year. What's the latest news, and what can fans expect from you guys in the coming months?
Zdenek: It will be our first time playing House of Blues in Boston, so I'm really excited about that for New Year's. We just booked Halloween. Have you heard what it is?
I have not. What's the word?
Zdenek: We're announcing on Wednesday that we're playing as 'Phiddle" with Phil Lesh at The Capitol Theatre's 'Phil-O-Ween'.
Wow. I've loved seeing the recent collaborations with Phil.
Zdenek: That's gonna be something special. I'm really excited about it. Aside from that, we're busy with shows, but we're really excited to start working on the next album. There's already some new material out there, and that's what we're really focused on and excited about.
Watch Twiddle's official recap from Red Rocks 2018 here:
Chachuba Kicks Off "Lost the Mountain" With Album Release Tour September 26, 2018 10:58
Phish Confirms New Year's Run at Madison Square Garden September 25, 2018 12:13
A ticket request period is now underway attickets.phish.com (ending Monday Oct 8 at 10AM ET). Tickets go on sale to the general public beginning Friday, October 12 at Noon ET atticketmaster.com or charge by phone at 866-858-0008.
Phish and CID Entertainment are also offering travel packages for the New Year’s Run (which include hotel and tickets). Phish will be donating their proceeds of these travel packages to the WaterWheel Foundation. Travel Packages go on sale Friday, September 28 at at Noon ET a tbit.ly/PhishNYE18_TP.
The Road to CukoRakko: A Conversation with Charlie Hunter September 24, 2018 20:49
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
If you're a music lover in Alabama, you've more than likely heard about an amazing grassroots festival known as CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival. Founded in 2014, the festival has been held twice a year at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL. As we prepare for another unforgettable CukoRakko weekend on October 5th - 7th, we're sitting down and getting to know a few of the performers on the 2018 Fall Festival lineup. For our second installment, we caught up with famed jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter, whose trio will close out the festival on Sunday, October 7th. See below for the full interview, as well as several videos of Hunter performing live.
Share this article from the Live & Listen Facebook page and tag a friend in the comments section for a chance to win a pair of weekend passes. We will announce the winner on Monday, October 2nd!
I always like start these by getting some background info. How did you first get started playing guitar and enter the world of music?
Charlie: Well, I grew up in Berkeley, California in the 70's. My mom played music and repaired guitars. I spent a lot of time growing up around music in general. I was around some amazing musicians, and I guess I didn't really know any better. That's just how I ended up in that universe. You definitely have to have an affinity for it, and you have to have a calling to do this as a career. It sure ain't a hobby, 'cause there are much better hobbies. (laughs)
Was there a particular experience or 'aha' moment that made you realize the potential to play professionally?
Charlie: No...for me, it's just all about the work. You know what I mean? That's the glory. Performing is awesome, and that's where you prove whether your work has had any success. I love playing and communing with the audience, but really, the joy for me is in the community and in the work. When I was a young guy in my teens, I was playing a lot of gigs with older guys, and that's just kind of how it all started.
Your debut album 'Charlie Hunter Trio' was released in 1993 on Les Claypool's Prawn Song Records. How'd you get hooked up with Les?
Charlie: The drummer that I was playing with, Jay Lane, used to play in Les's band Primus. I knew Les from when I was playing in a band called Disposable Heroes of Hyphoprisy. Primus opened for U2 on the same tour that I was on with Disposable Heroes, so that's how we initially met. He's just a real good dude. He's always trying to help people out and go to bat for others, so that was nice.
Speaking of Jay Lane, I was curious about how the lineup has worked with the trio over the years. Has there been much consistency with the lineup?
Charlie: Oh I'm always changing it around, just depending on what direction I'm going in. I usually have a trio. It's the biggest sound you can get, with the least potential for losing tons of money on the road (laughs). For this specific gig, I'll be playing with Derek Phillips, who I've played with for many years, on drums, and a woman named Dara Tucker from Nashville will be singing. It should be a grand ole time.
You've become well known for your unique style with the seven/eight string guitars; playing bass lines, chords, & melodies simultaneously. What led you in such a unique direction?
Charlie: That's a great question. I was a street musician in Europe for a number of years back in the 80's. I really just fell under the sway of people like Joe Pass and Tuck Andress and that real self sufficient type of playing guitar. That just tickled me, and I felt like I really needed to learn how to do this. I also played a lot of drums and bass guitar. It just kind of made sense. Then I went down this road of figuring the whole thing of my own out, and I'm still kind of figuring it out.
You were a co-founder of Garage a Trois, back in the late 90's, right?
Charlie: Well I didn't found it. I was really just one of the guys. Skerik and I went there because we were playing on Stanton's (Moore) record back in the late 90's. It kind of grew out that.
I know there have been some great players involved. I saw the band with Marco Benevento in Atlanta back in 2010.
Charlie: Yeah, yeah I kind of left around that time and Marco joined.
So originally that was you, Skerik, Stanton Moore, and who else?
Charlie: Mike Dillon on all kinds of percussion.
That's right. How could I forget Mike Dillon?
Charlie: Yeah, right? He's an awesome dude.
You've had the opportunity to collaborate with such a wide variety of world class talent. Looking back, are there any moments in particular that stand out?
Charlie: Not really. I think the stuff that people know, like D'Angelo's Voodoo and (writing and recording with) John Mayer...those were just really quick days in the studio, you know? Then you have the people who you're on the road with year after year, learning a lot...those are the things that last with you a lot longer. Again, it all just has to do with feeling like it's an honor to be able to do the work and be on the path at all. That's kinda what keeps me going. Knowing that there is always another experience down the road with someone who knows something that you don't know, and you can learn from them.
Absolutely. I think that's something that can be applied to all walks of life. There's always more to learn, even if it's how not do something.
Charlie: Amen. Exactly. Yes. (laughs)
You've definitely linked up with some killer drummers along the way. Stanton Moore and Jay Lane, just to name a few...
Charlie: Yeah...and those guys are my peers, but the really, the heaviest experiences have been with guys like Bobby Previte, Idris Muhammad, Bernard Purdie, Mike Clark, Ed Thigpen. Those have been the real incredible experiences.
That's amazing. Did I hear that you're getting ready to record a new album in Nashville?
Charlie: Well yeah, interestingly enough, it's not my record. Dara Tucker, who's singing with the trio, I'm going to be producing her record. We're going to do that right after the Alabama gig. In November, I'll be recording an album with Lucy Woodward and Derek Phillips, the drummer who's playing with me this tour. All kinds of shit is goin' down.
It appears so. Looking at all the albums that you've been a part of, there is a wide variety and quite a lengthy list.
Charlie: Yeah...I really feel lucky to have been a part of it all. Again, I'm just juiced that I get a chance to do it all.
You're closing out CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival in Alabama on October 7th. For those who haven't seen the trio before, what can they expect?
Charlie: Oh man, I don't know. I guess I'd just tell them to get on YouTube and check out some of the recent stuff.
That's a great answer in 2018.
Charlie: Exactly, exactly.
Well thanks so much for your time Charlie. Look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.
Charlie: Sounds great man. Thank you. Take care.
Watch Charlie Hunter Trio perform "Spoonful" here:
Watch Charlie Hunter Trio's full performance from The Acoustic in Bridgeport, CT here:
Watch Charlie Hunter's "No Money No Honey" here:
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